Kickoff Meetings: Steps to Success

Christine Johnson, Cued Forward on

Whether it be to kickoff the New Year for all employees or roll-out a new project or initiative, organizations often use kickoff meetings rev up energy on their teams, launch new ideas, get buy-in and empower employees.  Since many meetings include unique activities that you might not see in the day-to-day workplace, stories of great, positively-charged meetings are shared for years to come as are stories of the horrific meetings gone awry.

To help make sure your organization’s stories fall into the “wow it now and tell it again later” category, here are five ideas:

  • Have a plan. While there are managers who can give an awesome off-the-cuff speech or seemingly throw together an event in less than a day, the best kickoff meetings have all levels of leadership involved, have an agenda and key discussion points, have planned activities or exercises, build teamwork and relationships, and typically provide some type of extra like a meal, adult beverages, swag, or a giveaway.  Why spend time on an event especially a “meeting” for your employees that is no different than what happens every day?
  • Designate the event leader and compadres. Who is going to be the ringmaster at your kickoff meeting?  While numerous employees and managers may be involved in the kickoff, the event leader keeps the kickoff flowing.  Off agenda?  He brings it back on track.  Lack of participation?  She has engaging questions at the ready to jumpstart the missing discussions.  Plus, the kickoff designee is a great point-person to get the after-meeting follow up started with an email or post kickoff discussions.
  • During the meeting, don’t only talk about it, engage employees in atypical activities. Don’t think of atypical is not bad or scary, but different. To stand out from the crowded everyday workplace, find an activity or a speaker that can turn your message into actions and reactions.  Cued Forward’s Learning Provider Directory offers some great options for speakers and facilitators who can add variety to your kickoff and help kick-start your kickoff.  Some great options include using humor in the workplace to drive your message, growing positive relationships by optimizing your employees potential and teamworkor using a coach as an expert facilitator who can also give great business and life insights.
  • Create action items. The kickoff adds no value if it does not create action items for the team.  All kickoffs need a scribe who either uses a flip chart or takes notes electronically to capture the “to do’s,” “ah-ha” moments, and the valuable insights shared.  Creating action items is the key to driving the reason for the kickoff and maintaining momentum on the initiative after the kickoff ends.
  • Hold participants responsible for their action items. While this sounds like gloom and doom for those involved in the kickoff, it is truly about three key points: the success of what was discussed at the kickoff, building trust with participants, and improving the quality of other meetings and conversations.  It’s about follow up, follow through, and increasing the chances that future kickoffs are successful.

Having participated in kickoffs that ranged anywhere from near disaster to almost inspirational, the time invested in the planning part of the kickoff will pay itself back with a fully implemented project or initiative and employees who realize they were a part of something big.

What are your best tips for a successful kickoff meeting?

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